This image features stock image vintage illustrations of grass.
Letters To What We Want is a series of letters composed by friends, responding to the question ‘What do you want? In 2021 and beyond?’. The format was left open, as was the choice to sign off anonymously or with a pseudonym.
In exchange, I sent them an artwork, which can be viewed at the end of the post.
The mornings always feel wild, somehow,
like the world hasn’t fully turned
to face us. We haven’t ruined it yet,
haven’t had the chance to plow
through with our desires, or forge
paths we’ll later regret.
If I want anything, maybe it’s to sit
still, in that slow moment
as the sky arrives and birds call
out their business.
Maybe birds are petty in their own way.
Maybe they hurt each other without meaning to.
But the way they fill the air with messages –
they must know how to
I write poetry very rarely. I haven’t ever published a poem or even shared one on social media. (The closest I’ve come to showing people my poetry is when we had to write poems for school, on topics like Families and Seasons and Feelings. They would be written out by hand, then glued to a colourful border and pinned up on the classroom wall).
I wanted to share this poem with you, though.
As I thought about “what I want” for 2021, I realised that what I had in mind was not so much a list, a goal, or an object – but a feeling.
There are many things I want, both big and small. But for several reasons, I’m paying more attention to the small things lately.
It’s not that I don’t want to “think big”. It’s not that I stopped being ambitious. But I started to resent the idea of each new year being premised upon a checklist.
Actually, I love lists. There are so many projects I want to complete. A novel, a short film, a screenplay, essays. But I don’t want the success of my year to be contingent on the success of my writing.
In 2021, I’d like to leave behind the notion that being productive is inherently good. I’d like to leave behind work that’s underpinned by insecurity and needing to “keep up”, or motivated by the fickle mirage of success and prestige.
A poem isn’t for anything, and it’s also for everything. Poetry always strikes me as a density of feeling, an attempt to translate a specific detail of being alive into words. In so doing, the form inherently asks us to accept failure. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always shied away from it.
So it felt right to share this poem here.
I wrote this on a January morning, before the sun had come up. I was tending to my son, who wakes us up each morning before we’d like to be up.
He is my daily work, and a reason why I’ve tended to smaller pleasures lately. This poem is an incantation for both more wildness and more restraint, qualities that I suspect I’ll need by the bucket this year.
Image of Country Musik: Movements #17, given in exchange for this letter.
An edition of this work is available in the shop.